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NSW restrictions will ease from next week. Here's what Christmas and New Year will look like.

Xmas BBQs back on: NSW eases restrictions

Big backyard Christmas barbecues are back on the cards after the NSW government eased a slew of COVID-19 restrictions.

Up to 50 people can convene outdoors - including in backyards - from Tuesday across NSW, while 30 people can gather indoors.

All NSW venues up to 200 square metres in size, including hospitality venues, will also be able to host one patron per two square metres.

"We do appreciate this has a risk and we appreciate also that at social events and private homes, social distancing is difficult to maintain," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Wednesday.

"But we ask everybody to be very COVID-safe, especially if you have vulnerable people as part of your family or social gathering."

Additionally, NSW public health orders requiring employers to allow staff to work from home will end on December 14, with the government keen to get workers back into Sydney's CBD.

This prompted a renewed plea from Ms Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance for people to wear masks on public transport as patronage increases.

"Private companies and organisations can make decisions about what they do with their employees into the new year," Ms Berejiklian said.

"We don't want to go down the mandatory path, we want to ask people to get better at wearing masks on public transport ... although community transmission is zero, we need to wear masks, just in case."

It comes as NSW records its 18th consecutive day of zero locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, while four cases were uncovered in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

The tally came from almost 16,300 tests.

The changed gathering restrictions in NSW will coincide with the reopening of the NSW-Queensland border on Tuesday, in time for summer. Access to Queensland for Victorians will resume on the same date.

Qantas and Jetstar plan to operate an additional 1200 return flights to Queensland from NSW and Victoria in the lead-up to Christmas.

Virgin Australia also says Queensland's decision to reopen the border will help the airline and tourism industry to get back on its feet.

Ms Berejiklian was chuffed by the development.

"We feel that planning is absolutely necessary to ensure that we keep our economy moving, we keep jobs going, and that people feel more confident in 2021 about their livelihoods and their jobs," Ms Berejiklian said.

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Peak NSW business lobby group Business NSW said the eased restrictions from next week constituted a "clear pathway" to recovery.

The lobby group was pleased by the suspension of work-from-home orders. 

"This has been the cause of great frustration from businesses of all sizes right across the state," Business NSW chief executive Nola Watson said in a statement.

"This means businesses can properly plan and execute an integrated return to the office program for their employees, while ensuring a safe and compliant working environment."

The NSW Tourism Industry Council welcomed the easing of indoor physical distancing restrictions in time for the summer holiday season.

The move would allow people to take advantage of the budget's 'Dine and Discover' scheme that entitles every NSW adult to four $25 vouchers to spend at COVID-safe dining, arts and tourism businesses.

Meanwhile, NSW Health has discovered COVID-19 virus fragments in sewage at the Liverpool sewage treatment plant in western Sydney, prompting renewed calls for local residents to get tested.

Trump's camp start transition but the president "will never concede". 

The US states of Pennsylvania and Nevada have certified their vote count in favour of President-elect Joe Biden, dealing the latest blow to President Donald Trump's claims that he actually won the election.

Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral college votes, is one of the largest swing states that cemented Biden's victory over Trump. Nevada has six electoral college votes.

The certifications come a day after Trump gave the nod to a key federal agency to begin working with the incoming Biden administration, even as Trump continues to say that he has not conceded the election.

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General Services Administrator Emily Murphy gave the green light on Monday for Biden to coordinate with federal agencies ahead of his January 20 inauguration. 

Murphy, explaining her decision, cited "recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results."

US President-elect Biden has overnight shared his vision of a foreign policy based on his country taking a global leadership role and strengthening its alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.

He has also shared his first batch of national security appointments.

Antony Blinken has been named as Mr Biden's prospective Secretary of State.

Alejandro Mayorkas was nominated as the Secretary of Homeland Security, the first Latino in the senior role. 

Avril Haines will be the first female Director of National Intelligence if confirmed by the Senate.

His team embodies the core belief that "America is strongest when it works with its allies," Biden said.

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PM confident virus vaccine will be available early 2021.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is confident Australians will start receiving a coronavirus vaccine early next year after more encouraging late-stage trials.

The AstraZeneca-University of Oxford candidate has reported up to 90 per cent effectiveness, fuelling hopes an end to the pandemic could be possible.

Australia has a contract for 33.8 million doses of that vaccine, which will be manufactured in Melbourne.

Mr Morrison said it was clear the world was on track to start immunising people for coronavirus in 2021.

"It's our hope that we'll begin to roll out a vaccine early next year once it's been through very strict safety testing and quality controls we have in Australia," he said in a social media video.


Pfizer and Moderna's candidates reported a 95 per cent effectiveness rate, with Australia contracted for 10 million doses of the former.

Mr Morrison said the University of Queensland vaccine was also showing strong signs, describing the performance of vaccines as being beyond the government's best hopes.

QLD business buoyed by border reopening.

Queensland businesses are breathing a sigh of relief after the Palaszczuk government announced it would relax the state's COVID-19 border restrictions.

From December 1, all residents of NSW will be allowed to travel to the Sunshine State after it clocked up 28 days without community transmission of the coronavirus.

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Travellers from Victoria are also likely to be welcomed on the same day if the southern state reaches the 28-day threshold on Wednesday.

"It's a much anticipated early Christmas present for the tourism industry and all of Queensland, and all our visitors from interstate," Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind told AAP on Tuesday.

"It will allow us to start the recovery that this state needs so desperately."

Pizza worker sorry over SA lockdown.

The man who inadvertently sparked South Australia's brief COVID-19 lockdown has expressed remorse and deep sorrow over the events that transpired last week.

Authorities ordered the six-day shutdown from Thursday amid fears a cluster of coronavirus cases might spark widespread community transmission.

On Tuesday, the man's lawyer issued a statement saying he did not foresee or intend what unfolded.

"He is extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for any part his conduct played in any unnecessary lockdown actions," the statement said.

"My client's current focus is on cooperating with the authorities and completing quarantine.

"He is sincerely concerned about the impact of the lockdown on South Australians."

The statement said the man had limited access to government information and public comments on social media, but believed some information was not fair or accurate.

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Mandatory and regular COVID-19 testing for workers in Adelaide's quarantine hotels has come into force after the cluster scare.

The new direction came into force on Wednesday requiring police, SA Health officials, defence force personnel and all employees and contractors working in the quarantine hotels to be tested weekly.

The rule includes all cleaning and security staff. 

Vic budget praised but $23b debt causes concern.

Community and business groups have praised Victoria's big-spending budget, however ratings agencies are concerned about the eye-watering levels of debt. 

Treasurer Tim Pallas unveiled his sixth budget on Tuesday, which includes an unprecedented $49 billion spend on health, housing, education and transport infrastructure. 

The government is hoping to create 200,000 jobs by 2022 and 400,000 by 2025 after more than 250,000 jobs were lost across the state due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

A $619 million jobs package will help those most impacted by the pandemic - women and young people - find work.

It includes $250 million to subsidise the wages of 10,000 workers, with at least $150 million to go towards employing women. 

Victorian Council of Social Services chief executive Emma King described the budget as an "inequality crusher". 

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The big spend will plunge the budget into a $23.3 billion deficit in 2020/21, with net debt forecast to reach $87 billion. It will grow to 154.8 billion in 2023/24 - about 28.9 per cent of gross state product.

Donors meet to pledge aid to Afghanistan.

Dozens of nations have begun pledging billions of dollars in aid for Afghanistan, hoping that peace negotiations between the government and the Taliban will end nearly two decades of war.

During the lead up to the quadrennial international donors conference in Geneva on Tuesday diplomats reckoned Afghanistan could receive 15-20 per cent less funding than the roughly $15.2 billion pledged in Brussels in 2016 due to uncertainties over the peace process and difficulties getting commitments during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Despite our suffering, I want to be very clear that our commitment to negotiations with the Taliban remains firm... we must bring an end to the violence that is haunting our lives and robbing our children of the joys of childhood," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, joining the virtual conference in a video link from Kabul.

Also addressing the conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a ceasefire as soon as possible, with violence escalating while peace negotiators have struggled to make progress since talks began in Qatar in September.

The European Union pledged 1.2 billion euros ($A1.9 b) over four years but emphasised aid was conditional on strict requirements.

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Britain, one of the country's top bilateral donors, said in a statement it would pledge $227 million ($A309m) in annual civilian and food aid.

Elon Musk passes Bill Gates on rich list.

US entrepreneur Elon Musk has overtaken Microsoft founder Bill Gates and is now the second-richest person on the planet, with a fortune totalling 127.9 billion dollars, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Thanks to shares in electric car maker Tesla climbing by 6.5 per cent, Musk's fortune rose by 7.2 billion dollars in a single day to a total 127.9 billion dollars. Since the beginning of the year, the 49-year-old's fortune has already increased by 100.3 billion dollars.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index is a daily ranking of the world's richest people. Details about the calculations are provided in the net worth analysis on each billionaire's profile page.

With a fortune of an estimated 182 billion dollars, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos currently tops the index.

Around the world.

- Purdue Pharma has pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, admitting its role in a US opioid epidemic that has contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

- Italy reported 853 COVID-19 related deaths on Tuesday, and the UK reported 698, the highest numbers in both countries in months.

- With AAP

Feature image: Mark Makela/Jono Searle/Patrick Pleul/Picture Alliance/Getty.

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